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Defense Launches Effort to Blame Rodney King for His Own Beating

March 16, 1993 GMT

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Defense testimony opened in the Rodney King beating trial with a discussion of an outlawed police restraint technique known as the chokehold.

City Councilman Hal Bernson testified that the chokehold was banned in 1982 despite warnings that police might have to resort to other types of force if the technique was not available.

″The council was told it could result in other types of violence and could force officers to use the gun instead of the chokehold,″ he said.

Attorney Ira Salzman has said his client, Sgt. Stacey Koon, considered ordering a chokehold used on King but decided against it because of the ban.

Koon and three other officers are accused of violating King’s civil rights by clubbing, kicking and shocking King.

On Monday a defense attorney launched an effort to persuade jurors that King was responsible for his own beating by police officers.

Paul DePasquale told the jury his client, Officer Timothy Wind, merely reacted to King’s refusal to obey orders to lie still.

″Mr. King directed the behavior of Tim Wind, directed the behavior of all the officers,″ said DePasquale, who had reserved his opening statement until the start of the defense case.

DePasquale said Wind was a rookie taking orders from his training officer, Laurence Powell, and his sergeant, Stacey Koon. All three are on trial, along with Officer Theodore Briseno.

Earlier Monday, prosecutors rested their case after calling 35 witnesses over three weeks. King, testifying for the first time about the 1991 videotaped beating, denied provoking the officers.

Defense attorneys claim the officers believed King was high on PCP the night of the beating. Government medical witnesses said King showed no signs of PCP intoxication, and King testified he never took the hallucinogen.

Still, the defense elicited testimony that PCP can give users immense strength and keep them from feeling pain. Sgt. John Amott, a prosecution witness, said PCP creates ″the Incredible Hulk syndrome″ in users.

The final hours of the government’s case focused on what prosecutors portrayed as a cover-up by the defendants.

Lt. Patrick Conmay, a watch commander, said Koon never mentioned that King was clubbed while on the ground and never indicated King was seriously hurt.

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Koon ″indicated the injuries were of a minor nature,″ Conmay said. ″He specifically described a split lip.″ King suffered broken bones in his face, bruises and a broken leg.

Also Monday, prosecutors and lawyers representing three black men charged in the videotaped beating of white trucker Reginald Denny at the outset of the riots last year said they are willing to discuss plea bargains. The riots broke out after the officers in the King case were acquitted on state brutality charges.

Plea bargains could prevent another racially volatile trial from overlapping the King case. The defendants are scheduled for trial April 12.